Today we’re talking about food…whoop! Eating takes up a lot of my time. That’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but it’s the truth. Not only because there’s the meal planning, shopping for food, cooking and the actual eating part but a lot of my social activities also revolve around food in some way. Whether that’s going out for dinner with friends or going to a baseball game and getting a hot dog (because you can’t not do that). This also means that food makes up a sizable portion of our monthly budget. So, how do we keep that in check? Well, there are a few tricks we’ve adopted along the way that have helped.
Stop Eating Out
I know, I know…this one goes without saying, but I’m repeating it because it’s the one that can really make or break your budget. Eating out even just one meal at a restaurant will often cost you as much as an entire weeks worth of groceries. I’m not saying don’t ever eat out, that just wouldn’t work for me. We factor eating out once a week into our plans, and sometimes that’s a pricier dinner and sometimes it’s a cheaper meal from a food truck. Find a system that works for you but don’t overdue it. This goes for lunches, too. I’m much worse for going out to eat with my co-workers than I am at home (victim of peer pressure). The more often you eat at home, the less you’ll spend on food.
Tap Water Won’t Kill You
In fact, it won’t even hurt you, and no, it doesn’t taste funny. You won’t have any bottled water in my house. In Canada alone, bottled water generates $2.5 billion every year, and it can take up to three litres of water to process one litre of bottled water. So not only is it hurting your wallet it is also horrible for the environment. People stop! Go ahead and buy yourself a fancy, reusable water bottle and fill it up with good old fashioned tap water. Even this adorable puppy hates plastic water bottles (any excuse for a dog GIF).
Ditch the Meat
This isn’t always easy for everyone (my bf for one) but limiting the amount of meat you eat can really lower your grocery bill. I’ve never been a big meat-eater so this one’s pretty easy to be but it’s always a bit of a battle in our house. I’m super fussy with meat and will cut off every bit of fat I can find which makes it a hassle. I’d rather a plate full of vegetables or tofu any day. We aim to go meatless for at least two dinners every week, and I’ve found quite a few vegetarian recipes that we both enjoy. Here’s five that regularly make it into our meal plans and even satisfy my carnivore bf.
- Simple Vegetarian Lasagna
- Sweet Potato Burritos
- Vegan Banh Mi (Vietnamese Subs)
- Red Curry Lentils
- Huevos Rancheros
We also buy the majority of our meat at Costco and freeze it. It’s not always the cheapest (usually though), but the quality of their meat is top notch and always have a stockpile in the freezer helps us avoid last minute trips for take-out.
Stock up on Snacks
Have you ever been sitting on the couch after dinner and get a craving for something sweet? That’s me, pretty much every night. I also have no willpower, so if I don’t have something at home to snack on then I’m going to end up in the Dairy Queen drive-thru at 10 pm. Not good for my wallet or my waistline. I don’t necessarily like the idea of spending $15 on a Costco size bag of trail mix, but if it prevents me going out for food, then I call it a win. If you’re not a snacker, then you can obviously skip this one, and then tell me what sort of Jedi mind tricks you use!
And I don’t mean the TV show…did anyone else think that show was terrible? It has rave reviews, but I could NOT get into it. The best way for me to not spend money on eating lunch out is by bringing leftovers. I love leftovers, seriously! Give me leftovers over a sandwich or salad any day. Even if it means buying extra so that you have enough food to do you for dinner and lunch the next day it’s worth it. A cheap lunch out will still cost you $10 to $15, and there’s no way a few extra grocery items will add up to that much. Plus, dishing up an additional serving into a Tupperware container is much easier than making something from scratch. Easy always wins in my world.
Shop Once, Eat for a Week
My final tip is to avoid going to the grocery store as much as possible. It’s basically the worst place ever, so you’ll be a happier (and richer) person if you aren’t there every other day. We do one big shop every Sunday and pick up everything we need during the week. If there’s something on the meal plan that needs to be fresh, we just make sure to cook it on Sunday or Monday. Planning ahead is essential so figure out what is on the schedule and choose your dinners accordingly. I’ve written before about the importance of meal planning, so if you’re not already in the habit then go check out that post for a little inspiration (and a two-week meal plan).
These are all relatively straightforward tips that work for me and won’t have you clipping coupons or searching through multiple flyers for the best price. I don’t have time for that, so I focus on things that make life easier while still saving money.
Do you guys have any tips you use that I haven’t included here?